In Conversation with Dr. Shadi Khalifa

Compute Ontario spoke to Dr. Shadi Khalifa ahead of his workshop “AI: What, When, Why and How?” at the Advance Ontario 2019 conference

Dr. Shadi Khalifa, Senior Analytics Developer, Centre for Advanced Computing, Queen’s University

AI is one of the fastest growing areas of computer science and has begun moving from the research realm to real-world applications. However, misconceptions have grown along with the noise and hype around AI. Dr. Shadi Khalifa, Senior Analytics Developer at the Cognitive Development Hub, CAC, Queen’s University spoke to us about why it is important to understand AI and the hype around it, and his upcoming workshop on the subject at Advance Ontario 2019. You can read about his workshop here and register for it here.

Lately, AI has been dominating conversations in technology. Why do you think it is becoming increasingly important for tech enthusiasts, businesses and decision-makers to understand it?

AI can help everyone do their job in a less-expensive, faster and better way. We have seen decision makers use AI to navigate through massive amounts of historical data to find inefficiencies in current business practices which helps them to reduce operating costs. We have seen businesses using AI to provide better and faster customer service. We have seen businesses using AI to scale their businesses in a way that was not previously possible relying on people alone.

Can you share a few examples of how AI will change the way we work in the near future?

We like to use the term “Augmented Intelligence” instead of “Artificial Intelligence” as we believe that AI is not to replace people but to support them in doing their jobs better. We envision AI assisting everyone in the future to do their jobs better. People can focus on the creative, interactive and problem-solving tasks, while the AI is handling the repetitive tasks and going through massive amounts of data to generate insights. This reduces the amount of time people waste doing repetitive tasks and allows people to analyze massive amounts of data that, previously, was archived and unutilized.

Can you describe in a nutshell what an attendee can learn from your AI workshop?

In this workshop, attendees will become familiar with the fundamentals of AI, including what AI really is and is not, when to use AI and how to leverage AI to problem-solve. The session will focus on some of the most fascinating aspects of this topic. They will learn methods for generating predictions using Machine Learning (ML), methods for analyzing language using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and methods for interpreting images using Computer Vision (CV). After completing the sessional portion of the workshop, they will use their newly acquired knowledge to build a virtual assistant as an AI demo.

Advance Ontario is bringing the digital and research ecosystem in Ontario together. Why do you think collaboration is key to success in this landscape?

AI is an ecosystem with many moving parts such as the hardware required to run the massive computations, the tools and libraries to speed up AI development and, finally and most importantly, the AI talents and researchers to formulate the business problem and implement the AI solution to address it. AI solution development requires collaboration between different parties to provide an AI ecosystem, which in turn, helps businesses to implement AI without investing in building their own AI ecosystem. It’s great that Advance Ontario is bringing everyone together to have this AI ecosystem. This will speed up the AI adoption by businesses resulting in organizations that can provide better services to their communities.

What part of this conversation excites you the most? Is it exchange of ideas, legislation and policy development, or the future of Ontario?

The exchange of ideas always excites me. It’s the only way for us to evolve and create incredible new things. It’s always good to be backed by legislators who understand the importance of AI and work on implementing policies to facilitate its adoption.